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Coach's analysis: Predators should remain confident in Pekka Rinne

Former NHL assistant Perry Pearn finds little fault in goaltender's performance during Game 2 loss to Penguins

by Tim Campbell @TimNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

For additional insight into the Stanley Cup Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators, NHL.com has enlisted the help of Perry Pearn to break down the action from the Predators' perspective. Pearn will be checking in throughout the Final.

Pearn, 65, has worked 22 seasons as an NHL assistant with the Vancouver Canucks, Ottawa Senators, New York Rangers, Montreal Canadiens and Winnipeg Jets. He began his NHL career as an assistant in Winnipeg in 1995-96.

Pearn also has a gold medal as coach (1993) and two golds as an assistant (1990, 1991) with Canada's national junior team at the IIHF World Junior Championship.

NASHVILLE -- Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne is under plenty of scrutiny after two games of the 2017 Stanley Cup Final.

The Pittsburgh Penguins have scored a total of nine goals and lead the best-of-7 series 2-0. Game 3 is at Bridgestone Arena on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVA Sports).

 

[RELATED: Coach's analysis: Guentzel changed tone of Game 2 | Complete Stanley Cup Final coverage]

 

You will not find former NHL assistant Perry Pearn in the chorus of those critical of Rinne.

"Everybody's talking about him but I feel that's an awful tough thing to be doing," Pearn said after Game 2, a 4-1 win by the Penguins. "Probably most goalies wouldn't want to give up the rebound that he gave on the second Pittsburgh goal, the game-winner by Jake Guentzel, in Game 2. But that's easy to say, tough to do, tough to put that rebound where you'd like, and I have a tough time faulting him on that one.

"If you analyze the eight goals that have gone in (the Penguins had an empty-net goal in Game 1), for me as a coach, I have a really hard time laying a whole lot of that on his plate. He's just been too good for them in the playoffs. I have no doubt they have confidence in him."

Pearn said he could find little, if any fault with Rinne in the third period of Game 2, when the Penguins broke a 1-1 tie with three goals in the first 3:28 of the period.

"It's a tough play when the puck goes off a player coming back to the net to help out, but Scott Wilson's goal for Pittsburgh goes off Vernon Fiddler," he said. "And the other one is [Evgeni] Malkin going right down the slot with a good look. It's hard to say, 'Wow, Rinne didn't play well enough.'

Video: NSH@PIT, Gm2: Wilson tips a puck home off Fiddler

"[Pittsburgh goalie Matt] Murray has played really well but he has given rebounds similar to Rinne and been able to get across or get help from a defenseman. That, and Nashville hasn't been as good at capitalizing.

"I would certainly think that Nashville will be downplaying all of this. Rinne is going to be the guy if they're going to come back in the series. If that happens, it will be that Pekka Rinne will be great in Games 3 and 4."

The third period of Game 2 saw critical breakdowns in front of Rinne, Pearn said.

"Nashville looked like they were really put back on their heels off the first goal of the period, 10 seconds in," he said. "They looked rattled after that. All three goals in the third were scored exactly the same way.

"The first one was the first faceoff, and Pittsburgh beat the pinch of the Nashville defenseman that created the opportunity. Then it was a pinch on the third Penguins goal, a defensemen, with Austin Watson covering up and Watson made a bad decision to step forward one more time. They probably accomplished what they wanted on the pinch but it got chipped by and it turned into a 2-on-1."

Another mistake by Colton Sissons led to Malkin's goal that made it 4-1.

"He was in good position but Malkin read he was there and the one thing you can't do is let the puck get by you and Malkin chipped it by to create the 2-on-1," Pearn said. "Nashville's defenseman wasn't aggressive on the puck carrier on that one -- of course it was Malkin -- but mostly they've done a good job on those 2-on-1's. But at 4-1, the game is over.

"I think it's part of their game plan, the pinching and pressuring, so I don't expect them to go away from it. But [Wednesay] night, they made more mistakes surrounding the pinch than they had previously in the playoffs and paid a high price for that."

Video: NSH@PIT, Gm2: Malkin goes bar-down to pad lead

Pearn said Nashville played its game well for two periods in Game 2, but slipped noticeably in the third.

"Nashville, in the first period, were winning a lot of faceoffs and putting a lot of pressure on," Pearn said. "They missed their biggest opportunity of the game to take control when they didn't score on the 5-on-3. Having watched the Anaheim series closely, and now two games in this series, they've had three opportunities like that they haven't taken advantage of. You look back and say you had to score there. It's one of the things they'll look at.

"The flip side of that, they've continued to be very, very good on their penalty kill. They've been aggressive, pressured the puck and I've been impressed with their whole penalty kill and they have frustrated Pittsburgh. It looked like after two periods, that their quality penalty killing was going to serve them well in the outcome."

Pearn said that the Predators have done a lot with unheralded young players like Pontus Aberg and Watson.

"Those guys have stepped up, and a few others, too, but you really have to say the same thing about Pittsburgh," he said. "Guentzel has 12 goals in the playoffs and their young guys have played a big role, too."

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